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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Silent War on Bench Road

We interrupt this extended period of non-bloggedness to bring you a report from the troops at Provident Heritage Farm where the war to maintain order and civility rages gallantly--unreported on the evening news or documented by historians.  We here in the thick of the battle often lose our perspective--being hunkered down continually in the trenches as we are, but occasionally it is cleansing to give a state-of-the-union update.  This reporter/soldier is reporting tonight from the house deck facing the sunset.  The hawks are swooping, the geese are honking, the horse Sage is munching in the pasture with her sidekick pony, Buttercup, and the mosquito spraying truck is whistling down the road behind me.  Corporal Paco is still at his tasks.  His indentured servant duties today included donning a hazmat mask and vacuuming out our camp trailer--the victim of some spring vandalism carried out by four high schoolers, an illegal entry, and the mischievous evacuation of the contents of a fire extinguisher ALL over the inside of the camper all during lunch break.  C.P. also stained a deck.  He's a workhorse.

The constant battles we wage here usually always involve Mother Nature--she can be mean and unrelenting--appendage-numbing cold, flies with Biblical intensity, wind that carries trampolines to the next farm, hail today, varmints that tunnel in and suck squash plants down into their lairs, weeds that grow at the rate of the speed of sound, rocks that churn up from the bowels of the earth and have to be "harvested" perpetually, mice who scurry across the baseboards of the house and scare the heck out of the troops, and the list goes on.  You get the idea.  We have to maintain constant vigilance.

Almost on cue, the train is passing, and the wind is picking up.  The smell of newly cut hay is wafting gently from a few feet away, and I see that the moon is exactly half full tonight.  But I am still maintaining my post here because I suspect that the bats have moved on.  I want to document that; we have a crew of guests arriving this weekend.  The bats' summer  vacation in our eaves is a non-anticipated annual event.  They themselves do keep the mosquito population  down admirably, but if you go into our loft during the day you can hear them scratch scratch scratching on the other side of the wall.  It gives me the willies. A few weeks ago one got disoriented and came flapping into our bedroom one night!!!  I dove under the covers with no intention of surfacing EVER again if necessary.  Paco tracked it down the stairs and eventually threw a blanket on it and scooped it out into the night.

We spend a lot of time coaxing things to grow here as part of our duties.  Cajole as we will, sometimes Mother Nature retaliates with a chilling frost down Bear Hollow Road mid summer which wipes out all our efforts.  It's a capricious frost, and no one else in the entire valley seems to suffer from it.  Tonight I caught Sage chowing down on some flowers in my English garden that she could reach.  I shouted, "Really??" at her and squirted her with the hose.  Traitors within our ranks...

Another battle in our silent war here is the one we fight with our nearly 100 year old farmhouse.  She's a spunky old gal.  We wage a constant battle to keep her healthy, trim her bunions, and salvage her teeth.  Our vision of her future is often at odds with how she thinks her "golden years" should play out.  Her rock hard stucco walls currently have me baffled.  I want to hang pictures somehow.  She prefers nudity.   Or I find her peeling paint crusted into a corner crevice, or her plumbing backs up, or she leaks water in the basement.  I can understand her incontinence and bowel issues, but last summer when she became completely dehydrated, she forced us to turn back the chapters of time and enter a completely different era!  We were compelled to go nearly three months with NO RUNNING WATER!!!! A nightmare. I could have been semi understanding about having to revert to perhaps the Victorian Era-- mild inconveniences we could have laughed about over tea, but the STONE AGE??????  That hurt.

When I signed up for this duty, the mission was unclear.  The recruitment posters were heavy on the clear air, spectacular sunsets,  fuzzy pasture creatures and skimpy on flies, bats and the deteriorating intestinal tract of Madame House.  But we soldier on.  I tell Paco if not here where, if not this what?  We don't really have a good answer for those questions.  So we put a positive spin on our silent war.  I seek my off duty jollies from puttering  around with my flowers, and C.P. is currently burying himself in the art of fermentation.  Will we win this conflict?  Mother Nature is ahead.  Are we gaining on her?  Can we strategize victory?  If we stay up plotting long into the night...and the bats back off for a while.

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Face in the Place

My dirty little secret is that I am home--in Idaho.  To the casual observer, I am posting from China.  But it is a charade.  I am a charlatan. My rationale is that when I'm senile and time-tripping, I won't know the difference.  I'll get just as big a buzz out of the blogging I did in retrospect as the blogging I do in real time.

And in continuing full disclosure, these Chinese are not really in China.  They're in Rome!!  At the colosseum!

I flirted with this little beauty on the subway.  She was a fuzzy pink thing that I could barely keep from gobbling up.

Pre chopsticks.  I went through this stage too.  It was messy.

On the way home from a trip to the primitive Great Wall with Diana and Tony (fabulous parents of Kathy in my novels class).  This is the bee lady.  Our hosts gifted us a delicious jar of her honey which we brought all the way home to Idaho!

Guilin.  This child lives with her family in an old farm that allows tour guides to invade for a taste of the past.  Over her shoulder is the soybean grinder that makes soy milk which is later turned into tofu.

A penny for this woman's thoughts at the Forbidden City in Beijing...

"We are a happy fam-i-lee!"

Forbidden City.  I think she's holding a bubble maker.  We grabbed a day with Ted and Sally Ashton--humanitarian missionaries in Beijing.  I knew them 40 years ago in a Provo ward of mine.  Sooo delighted to cross paths with them again.

An out-of-the-park photo hit in the Forbidden City.  I just saw her and snapped it--took about 3 seconds of my life.  I love it.

At the top of a trail leading up to the primitive Great Wall, we found this guy.  He carries up styrofoam coolers full of cold drinks on his back EVERY day and sits here under a tarp he throws up selling them.  We sang for him--first our hosts Kathy and Tony and then Jerry and I.  Fabulous day, really.  Jerry said it was his BEST in China!!!!  This guy told us that last week someone stumbled in the wall rubble and injured himself.  For 500 yuan, drink guy carried him ON HIS BACK down the mountain!!!  I tell ya...

Soaking up some sun.  We returned about three hours later, and she was still here in the same position, only that time she came to life and started hawking her wares! Guilin.

Near the dragon rafts in Guilin.

Perhaps my favorite photo of all time...She was selling flower head wreaths early on a Sunday morning.  I bought one and then placed it on her head for a picture.  

Trezlyn posing with the cormorant man just after we'd gotten off the Li River.

Yiaou woman pinning up her hair.  These women only cut their hair once in their lifetime--at age 18.  They keep the hair that brushes out in their brush and make a hairpiece to wrap up with their other hair.  This woman asked if we wanted to see her hair when we were strolling through her village.  She led us down to the river, let it down, and gave us a full show!

I found this little girl sitting in a styrofoam cooler in the Dragonbacks while her mother sold trinkets to tourists.   Her older sister would have none of it--but the baby let me shoot away.

A Xi'an street solicitor.  He wasn't begging (in the pure sense)--just holding out a cup and smiling.

Guilin.  A little fuzzy but so charming.  He was sitting with a rather large family in front of the family business enjoying a meal with all of them.

A fellow spelunker in Guilin.


Nature boy in Dragonbacks.

The young face of China's future--Dragonbacks.

Moslem Market, Xi'An.

She sells these bobbles.  They're sex non specific and actually very popular.

Tasty lamb kebobs--Moslem Market, Xi'an

Such a fruit this is.  Moslem Market, Xi'an

Mom and daughter meet in the airport!  So so fun to finally get my good friend Elyse to take the China plunge!!!!!

A worker--Badachu, Beijing

A little happier version of the same workforce

Jenny and Megan--Two very good reasons to have come to China!!

Daniel Gaillard and daughter CeCe--do you think they share a few genes?  CeCe's mom, Tricia, and I exorcized her sewing machine, and Tricia made this beautiful dress!

Our friend Cam utilizing our bathtub to prepare stacks of carrot sticks for a Young Adult lunch.  Dr. Cam also treats all manner of foot maladies for us and is our drug dealer too!

A very calming statue--Badachu, Beijing

Autumn and I met this Beijing policeman at a Moslem restaurant when we went on a little trip to a hutong and a mosque.  This guy was curious about who I was and where I got my "crazy" (my words, not his) chopstick skills!!

Tibetan monks with a case of the giggles--Beijing

Marsha and Frank have been changing Shanghai one student at a time with BYU China Teachers.  We started with them three years ago.  Who would have ever picked the four of us and Diane and Megan as survivors out of that training group?  Summer Palace, Beijing--Dragon Boat Festival Day, 2017

I wonder what his brow secret is???  Too too cool.  Summer Palace



All the faces

In all the places...

Favorite books

  • Me 'n Steve
  • Thundering Sneakers
  • James Herriott's vet books
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Travels with Charley
  • A Walk in the Woods
  • Peace Like a River
  • The Egg and I
  • Mary Poppins
  • Extremly Loud Incredibly Close
  • How Green Was my Valley